When we were in New Zealand in September 2019, attending the Worklife Retreat, we met Roger, Global Vice President of an organisation called LeaderImpact. After a number of follow up Skype conversations with him and two of the founding members, Nathan and Judy, we had the privilege of being invited to join one of their global conferences / meetings in New Zealand. We leapt at the opportunity, tacking on a couple of days to catch up with friends and family. Time was limited as we had to get back to Brisbane to pack up our home.
Leaving Brisbane ….
With having to be at the airport by 630am, public transport was not an option. We’ve established that Didi (like Uber / Ola) is a much cheaper option anyway, particularly as we’re new users and can get coupons giving us 30% off. Andrew our driver, a young salesman currently looking for work, arrived within minutes of receiving our request and soon we were hoisting ourselves into his pristine Ford Ranger. He kept us entertained during the half hour trip to the airport, using various interrogation techniques obviously used in his chosen career, finding out as much about us as we were willing to share.
With the coronavirus panic having hit, we weren’t sure of the impact on passage through the airport. Other than not being able to use the self check-in machines, everything else was operating as usual and we were soon enjoying a coffee and muffin for breakfast.
Arriving in Auckland…
The flight was relatively uneventful. After a second breakfast, near completion of the cryptic crossword (Glenda) and an immersion in a Fast & Furious movie (Walter), we were soon landing in Auckland. A quick path through customs and quarantine had us at the Avis counter to pick up our little red Suzuki in no time.
We were to have stayed with Glenda’s cousin, Dale, for the duration of our trip, travelling into the harbourside suburb of Birkenhead each day to the facility where the meetings were to be held. All the other overseas delegates were staying in serviced apartments next door. Unfortunately some of the delegates cancelled and, being hit by coronavirus impacts, the accommodation wouldn’t refund for the unused rooms. Their loss was our gain as we scored a 2 bedroom apartment. Roger was hanging out in reception when we arrived so it was good to see him and check in to our home for the next few days. We enjoyed taking a short stroll down the road for a view across the harbour towards the city and to check out running routes for the following morning.
The first day of our time at the gathering was focussed on Worklife, the ministry Glenda’s cousin and her husband run in Auckland. The key activity was a dinner and Q&A session held at Auckland City Hotel, a venue where the owner is committed to having the facility being used for missional purposes. https://www.achhobson.co.nz/
It was wonderful to reconnect with so many of the young professionals that we’d met in September, continuing to be inspired by their passion.
….and building new ones…
We were surrounded by men and women from across the globe, including the US, Canada, Bolivia, Costa Rica, South Africa, Hungary, UK, Indonesia and of course New Zealand. We were the only Australians, meaning that Glenda had to try and translate “dobbed in” at some point in the proceedings.
A group of local senior business leaders joined us for the final day, a time spent on training and planning how to engage with leaders to support them with the personal, professional and spiritual aspects of their lives. It was fun to have lawyers, bankers, marketers and designers in the same room!
We walked away from the 3 days exhausted, inspired, daunted and motivated about some things that we can do to connect with people as we move our way around the globe.
Enjoying time with family
Our time with the group having come to an end, we packed our suitcases, jumped in our little red car and headed off to the Auckland suburbs to stay with Glenda’s cousin. She and her husband, Bob, departed the venue before us and we’d agreed to meet them at home. Little did we know! Having two options for the drive to their house, both of which were 35 minutes (according to Google), we had to choose. About ten minutes into the slow peak hour drive, Walter spotted Dale standing alongside the road, hands in air, jumping up and down, desperately pleading for us to stop. She was very grateful that we’d chosen this route as their car had broken down. Much to our amazement, we managed to get all out luggage, their bit and pieces and 4 adults – 2 very tall ones – into the little red car and drive home.
Just when we thought the excitement was over, while unpacking in her fatigued state, Glenda knocked a hole in her head on a corner of a drawer. Having just read a book on neurosurgery (Gray Matter by Dr David Levy), she had a better understanding of why there was blood gushing from her head. You’re right Dr Levy – head wounds do bleed! Not sure whether the calm state was due to this knowledge or the total state of exhaustion. She thinks it’s more likely an answer to Walter’s prayer as Dale ran off for the Dettol, cotton wool and Band Aids.
The rest of the time with the family was relatively uneventful. We enjoyed some good laughs, deep conversations and robust debates. Meals out on the deck were relaxing – until the mosquitoes arrived to carry us away.
The highlight was going to church with the family followed by lunch at a café in one of Auckland’s trendy locations.
We couldn’t visit Auckland without catching up with our university friends, Ronelle & Dave. Ronelle had gone to a lot of trouble organising a Saturday outing to a nearby island, Tiritiri Matangi. Well-renowned for its bird life, it’s a haven from the city. Having been through various incarnations from Maori land to farmland (sheep) used for defence during World War II, it is being restored by the Department of Conservation and a large band of committed volunteers. Our volunteer guide, Bob, met us at the ferry and took us through the forests, exposing lots of hidden facts, including where the fairy penguins were hiding. He apologised for it being very quiet in terms of bird sightings, possibly due to drought. Traversing the forested paths was almost like walking through an aviary with the huge variety of birds we heard and saw, so can hardly imagine what a “busy” day would be.
The island is very underdeveloped, with a small visitor centre, lighthouse and keepers cottage. Once we’d enjoyed our picnic lunch, we packed up the remnants to take everything back to the mainland. Smokers were requested to take away all butts.
Whilst we didn’t really have expectations, any that we may have had were surpassed. Even Dave admitted to getting caught up in the bird sightings even though he started the day with no interest in our feathered friends. A highly recommended day out. http://www.tiritirimatangi.org.nz/home
We were invited back for an early roast dinner before heading back to our bed!
All good things come to an end
Wishing that we could savour the cool Auckland weather a little longer and extend our time with those we love, we were sad to say goodbye. Especially as now we have to pack up all our worldly belongings to put them in storage before going to South Africa later in the month.
At least when we get there were going to have more family & friends with whom to spend some treasured moments!